King Penguin Aptenodytes patagonicus



Distinguishing Characteristics

The king penguin is the worlds second largest penguin. Adults are around 90 cm tall and weigh about 15-16 kg. The king penguin is identified by its vibrant orange patches located near the ear and are shaped like tear drops. They are found on many sub- Antarctic island regions around the 45 degree south latitude. This species does not migrate and travel hundred of kilometers from breeding grounds for food.

Similar Species

The Emperor Penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri) is the tallest and heaviest of all penguins and It is sometimes confused with the smaller King penguin. The King penguin lives on islands far to the north of the Antarctic Emperor penguins also have a unique yellow opened tear drop shape while the King penguins have a closed orange tear drop shape.

Detailed Description

King penguins are the second largest penguin species. Males are slightly larger than females. Height ranges from 85- 95 cm and weight is between 9.3 -17.3 kg. King penguins are more colorful than emperor penguins and have a longer slender bill. This bill has a stripe on the lower mandible that ranges in color from pinkish-red to orange-yellow.

Adult king penguins have a dark, nearly black head with orange to orange-yellow, tear shaped spots on both sides of the head and near the throat contains the vibrant orange patch that fades down the upper breast into pale yellow then finally a white on the ventral side. The flippers and dorsal area consist of gray silvery sheen with black feathers. The sides are separated from the ventral side by a narrow, black line. The front edge of the flipper also has a black line that extends to a black tip.

Juvenile king penguins are miniature adults, but their coloration is less intense. The first most the chicks are simply dark brown and coloration doesn’t not appear for 2-3 years.
(McGonigal, D., L. Woodworth; 2001. Nolan, et al; 2010)


When they are molting they must stay out of the water to not disrupt their molting phase.This is particularly important before they moult because during the moult, King penguins are no longer waterproof and have to stay on land. For that time they rely entirely on body reserves that penguins can loose up to 50% of their body mass during this time.


Mass  9.3 to 17.3 kg; avg. 11.8 kg
(20.50 to 38.14 lb; avg. 26.01 lb)
Length  85 to 95 cm(33.46 to 37.40 in)

Recommended Citation

King Penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus), In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online: